Irish Bishops Explain Why Marriage Matters

Call for Freedom of Conscience in Pending Bill

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MAYNOOTH, Ireland, JUNE 17, 2010 ( The defense of marriage was a key topic in the summer general meeting of the Irish bishops’ conference, as they called on lawmakers to rethink a pending Civil Partnership Bill.

Today the conference publicized the conclusions of their summer meeting in Maynooth, in which they discussed the bill that has just completed its Committee Stage in Dáil Éireann, the lower house of the Oireachtas, the Irish parliament.

In a statement, «Why Marriage Matters,» which was published by the conference in March to address this bill currently moving through the government, the bishops noted that this legislation» seeks to give same-sex relationships a standing which will be as similar as possible to marriage.»

«In most other respects, including tax and social welfare purposes, same-sex civil partnerships will be regarded as being equal to marriage,» it observed.

The conference statement continued: «This is not compatible with seeing the family based on marriage as the necessary basis of the social order and as indispensable to the welfare of the nation and state.

«Nor does it ‘guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the family is founded.'»

In the concluding statement of their summer meeting, the prelates appealed to the parliament members to take into account the considerations outlined in «Why Marriage Matters.»

They also requested «greater recognition of the proper autonomy of Churches and the right to social and civil freedom in religious matters,» including «the right of individuals to the free exercise of conscience in accordance with the objective moral order and the teaching of the Gospel.»

The bishops appealed for amendments to the bill that will allow for the freedom of conscience.

The conference communiqué explained that, currently, the bill, «by exposing civil registrars to a fine or imprisonment should they act in accordance with their conscience on the matter of same-sex unions, undermines this cherished principle of a free and diverse society and imposes unjust limits on the ‘freedom of conscience and free expression and practice of religion’ guaranteed to every citizen.»

Other items

In addition to the discussion on marriage, the meeting included a response to Benedict XVI’s March 20 «Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland.»

The prelates reported that the people in their parishes around the country are reflecting and dialoguing on the Pope’s letter, discussing and praying about it and the issues it addresses.

In that regard, the bishops agreed to give particular attention to forming «parish pastoral councils, finance committees, and other bodies which enable greater participation of the lay faithful in the service and mission of the Church.»

As well, the conference is planning a program of prayer and fasting in accord with the pastoral letter, and will be developing initiatives accordingly.

The bishops expressed enthusiasm about an upcoming apostolic visitation in Ireland, announced May 31 by the Vatican, and noted that an objective of this process will be the «spiritual renewal of the Church» in that country.

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